First Visit: Black Wolf Running

After an early dinner on April 22, we started from Gardiner/Roosevelt Arch then on to Mammoth Hot Springs and then along the northern route, which is comprised of the Grand Loop Road until Tower Junction and the Northeast Entrance Road further east. We saw lotsa elk and bison (one calf), a few bighorn sheep, and ground squirrels.

Up around the Blacktail Lakes ridge I saw a black wolf!! 

This video has nothing to do with what I saw, but you can see the range of colors of wolves, and is probably the Wapiti pack. The first video captures very unusual pack behavior (taking on a griz) and a plethora of “ya’ll”s on the audio. Grizzly Bear will kill and eat wolf pups, so the pack will defend the den and the pups. That’s a bit of behavioral background not audible in the video.

So! I saw two running elk and a lone black wolf chasing them, maybe 30 seconds or less behind.  We drove further on but never saw them emerge from the other side.  I did see a few ground squirrels and a yellow ground flower – five petal radial, puffy center … maybe a sagebrush buttercup?

Even this first encounter introduced me to the notion of how much waiting and patience and respect goes into the photography and filming of wildlife. 400 hours of wait time may yield minutes of relevant wildlife behavior captured on film (let alone if the film survives all the technical difficulties and processing).

Further down the road, the Blacktail Lakes is this swampy, pondy area attracting everyone – mammals, water fowl, and thus humans.  Last week (okay … that would have been around April 15th) the National Park Service had to pull out seven bison who got stuck because otherwise the road fills up with people watching, and if the bison die .. then carcasses attract predators and more stopped traffic! 

The bison have to swim hard to stay upright … once they lose the vertical line of balance through unbalanced swimming or sheer exhaustion they tip to one side and begin to drown.  (They can’t do the side stroke.)  There are all kinds of birds in this area – sandhill cranes and every kind of water fowl.  On Friday, Bob called out mallard, pintail (pretty rare), teal, mergansers, and more.

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